There are few locations in the United States as iconic as the Grand Canyon. Whether you are just visiting to take in the views from the South Rim, are planning on taking a short hike or are paddling down the Colorado river and camping out for a few nights, you can be assured it will be a trip worth remembering. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Grand Canyon experience:
Pick your season
While the summer is the undisputed traveling season across the country, think twice before you plan your Grand Canyon trip then, as temperatures can average as high as 106 degrees. If you're planning on simply stopping for a couple quick snapshots, excessively warm temperatures may not put too much of a damper on your plans. However, if you are looking to do some hiking, consider planning your trip around the cooler months to avoid the dangerously high temperatures. Couple that with the fact that Arizona thunderstorms tend to generate lightening, and you should have plenty of motivation to move your trip to cooler months. In fact, January sees average highs of 56 – those from parts of the country or world with harsh winters see that as ideal outdoor weather. On top of that, you can avoid fighting the massive crowds that tend to visit the canyon between Memorial Day and Labor Day by planning an off-season trip.
If you are traveling to the Grand Canyon with the intent to hike – whether it's short or long – it's important to do your research so you know what you're getting into. For example, if you have any known asthma, heart conditions, problems with your knees or back, or any other medical concerns, talk to your doctor before planning your trip and take it easy. Understand and respect your limits – many visitors report that the Grand Canyon is a more difficult hike than they expected. Make sure you plan out a reasonable route as well. There are plenty of maps and guides to help you do so. Keep in mind that you need to allow yourself about twice as long to climb back up as it takes for you to descend. That means that if you hike down into the canyon for about 30 minutes, it should take you about 60 minutes to get back up.
No matter how short you think your hike is going to be, it's still important to be prepared for anything. First and foremost, this means plenty of water. Particularly in the warmer months, don't wait until you're feeling parched to drink water, as this means you are already dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to drink between a half to full quart of water per hour that you are hiking. You'll also have to eat more than you might expect, so be sure to have a good meal before setting out, and bring snacks along with you on any trip longer than 30 minutes. Focus on salty foods, which will give you a boost in the electrolytes that your body needs.
If you're planning on a longer hike, it's essential that you bring food and sports drinks with you, especially if you are hiking during the summer. That said, the less you carry with you, the more enjoyable your hike will be. Anything heavy or valuable – think bulky electronics, firearms and so forth – should be left in your hotel room or car. Invest in a portable safe or lockbox so you don't have to worry about theft while you are enjoying the views. Be sure to take frequent breaks, too. Stopping for about 10 minutes every hour, even when you don't necessarily feel like you need it, will help you from wearing yourself out. Propping your legs up while you're sitting down will help as well. Depending on the time of day and how ambitious you're feeling, you may need to bring along compact flashlights so you don't find yourself navigating the hills in the dark.
Watch out for mules
While hiking is an extremely popular choice when it comes to enjoying the Grand Canyon, it's by no means your only option. Another well-liked activity is riding mules down the trails. If you happen to be hiking when a team of these steady animals passes you on the trail, make sure you pay attention to the wrangler's instructions. It's likely he or she will ask you to move off the trail to the uphill side and keep still while allowing the mules to pass. It's a good idea to wait until they are several lengths away from you before getting back on the trail. Remember, though the animals are well trained, quick movements or loud noises can startle them and cause injury to itself, its rider or you.